Saturday, March 24, 2007

Second Chorus

I have no idea why this 1940 movie is called Second Chorus, since no second chorus is mentioned that I noticed, and, if it has some other meaning, I've missed it.

I found the movie amongst the bargain DVDs in The Warehouse (which is rapidly becoming my chief source for lots of old movies on DVD) and thought, because it had Fred Astaire in it, there would be some dancing. Well, yes, there is, but it's slotted in a couple of rather odd spots in the movie and that's it. The film also stars Paulette Goddard and Burgess Meredith (who became Goddard's third husband - the marriage lasted only six years) neither of whom were ever known as hoofers, although Goddard does pretty well as a substitute for Ginger Rogers in a brief dance near the beginning of the movie.
And it has Artie Shaw, who was probably a lot more pleasant than he appears in the movie, where his looks make him seem as though he's perpetually rather fed up with things. Shaw's band plays a few times, and Astaire and Meredith both pretend to be trumpet players on a few occasions - quite well, in fact - but the thing is a hodgepodge story-wise, and it's only the energy of the actors that holds it together.
When Astaire dances the thing has all that life he brought to any dance he ever performed; otherwise it's seldom funny or anything, really.
Charles Butterworth, who performed in endless movies, usually as someone rather pompous, has an awful part in the movie as a rather dull man with plenty of money, a man who plays the mandolin badly and is led around by the nose by Astaire and Burgess.
Someone on IMDB has written a mini-bio of him: Popular supporting actor in 1930's Hollywood, often portraying effete, waffling types, even though he was not a professional politician in real life. Very neat.
There are two interesting things about this movie: it has a very long outside tracking shot of Astaire and Meredith talking, and walking towards the camera at all times. Yet there's not a sign of any tracks that the camera might be riding on. And Astaire, who was 41 at the time the movie was made, and Meredith, who was 33, are supposed to be college students. Admittedly they've purposely flunked their courses several times, but even so, you have to wonder at the casting.

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